Listen to David A. Romero read "The Redemption of Roxy Salgado" (text below).
“This seatbelt Is suffocating The walls They’re closing in!”
These were the words of one Roxy Salgado From Rowland Heights, CA Psychology student at UCLA Before she unclicked her seatbelt And opened her car door to the 10 Westbound Psilocybin was pulsing through her veins A whole bag of magic mushrooms churning in her stomach Against the advice of members of her cohort Three of them in that car Couldn’t manage to calm her down Prevent her from tumbling out Somersaults and side rolls As her body went limp into the wind The black pavement under the night’s sky Illuminated by post lights.
It wasn’t Roxy’s obituary In the following morning’s paper But that of Patricia Guzman Mother of three Resident of Pico Union, Los Angeles Hailing from San Miguel, El Salvador Severe trauma to her neck and spine Blunt force trauma to her brain From collision with dashboard An airbag that never deployed According to her husband Victor Her last words were, “Me duele” “It hurts” And fragmented questions About the safety of their children.
Roxy awoke at a friend’s house in Southeast Los Angeles With a headache Sprained ankle Some cuts and bruises Unanswered texts and voicemails Clothes embedded with gravel And stained with blood and vomit.
Three months later Roxy is in a state between uppers and downers Leaning on a chain-link fence Across the street from a house in Pico Union, Los Angeles It is once again nighttime Roxy looks in through partially open windows Revealing the Guzman family inside Victor and his three children There is laughter There is screaming There are long silences and muffled whimpers Victor often walks around aimlessly Moves to start something And abruptly stops The youngest of the three Lusita Has a Dora the Explorer doll Sometimes she talks to it Clutches it tightly for hours Crouched in the same spot.
One month later It is the eve of Lusita’s birthday Roxy has gathered that from outside surveillance Roxy’s parents Have no idea she has functionally dropped out of school Roxy spends most of her days visiting friends and dealers Going to parties Kickbacks Afternoon hangs Walking the lampposts and pavements of Los Angeles But every trip eventually takes her back to the Guzmans On one walk Roxy found a discarded piñata on a curb An unlicensed paper mâché and chicken wire Dora the Explorer That day Roxy picked it up Took it with her on the bus and dragged it home Fashioned it into a costume.
Roxy stands now In the Guzman’s kitchen with it on After having broken in Her mind is swimming With guilt and hope The pain of something that happened to her long ago The little girl Lusita Walks into the room Sees Roxy As a shadowed paper mâché monster And screams Roxy lifts her costumed hands To try and comfort Lusita She wants to hold her for hours Tell her everything will be ok Lusita runs away Continues screaming Roxy hears rustling in other rooms Victor shouts, “¿Qué es eso?” Roxy panics Tears the paper mâché head off Sprints through the kitchen door Through an alley A block over Roxy can still hear Lusita’s terrified wailing Roxy is panting and sweating She leans on a fence still partially covered In the collapsing costume She weeps As the neighborhood dogs Awaken the neighborhood One snaps behind her Teeth colliding with the fence Roxy runs Eventually finding her way home.
Roxy never returns to the Guzmans’ She goes back to attending classes Asks for extra credit Graduates And in time Finds a job On her best days She forgets what happened On her worst She drinks Pops pills Starts doing something And abruptly stops Or sits for hours In the same spot.
The Guzmans struggle with the loss of Patricia For many years longer Lusita occasionally awakens with nightmares Of a paper mâché monster in the house But in time The nightmares abate.
Victor Keeps a copy of the paper On his antique wooden nightstand With the article about what happened the night Patricia died And within it It outlines how Victor Swerved into the shoulder of the freeway To avoid a head-on collision With a truck heading the wrong direction There is a statement Issued by the trucking company Giving their most sincere condolences Promising the immediate termination of the driver And in the cold calculations of the value of Patricia’s life The announcement of a settlement.
Nowhere in the article Is given mention to a Roxy Salgado Of Rowland Heights, CA Or any other person Who may Or may not have been In some way Responsible For the accident on the 10 Eastbound that night.
David A. Romero is a Mexican-American spoken word artist from Diamond Bar, CA. Romero has performed at over 75 colleges and universities in over 30 states. www.davidaromero.com